Don’t panic! We’re under cyber attack

With security chiefs warning that it is now a matter of “when, not if” the UK gets hit by a major cyber attack, it can be easy for marketers to focus on fear over innovation. AML’s Chief Digital Officer, Jonathan Hirshler, looks at some of the issues in Cybersecurity marketing.

It isn’t every day that you get to work on a brief that’s so important it could literally save lives but here at AML we’ve been tasked with quite a few of these over the last couple of years. Working for a number of security clients across transport and infrastructure has enabled us to build up a pretty strong understanding of the issues, sensitivities and opportunities. One slight frustration of our work in this space is that (for fairly obvious reasons), we can’t go around shouting about some of these projects. However, that hasn’t prevented us from building up a strong knowledge practice in this field.

Over the last few months, we’ve seen a heavy focus on Cybersecurity in particular. The dangers are quite clear and have been highlighted recently with major cyber attacks across the globe. In Turkey the banking system took a massive hit in January 2017, whilst the United States has seen the on-going saga of their entire democratic process being undermined in 2016 by alleged Russian interference.

Closer to home in the UK we experienced a pretty devastating attack on the NHS, with the WannaCry malware outbreak infecting 300,000 computers across 48 NHS trusts. There was also the take-down of our Parliamentary email system last summer. Such attacks are often viewed by business as a problem for the Government to deal with, or within businesses, they are seen purely as the remit of the IT department.

This presents a number of challenges in marketing Cybersecurity services:

1) Who to target: In the present environment, Cybersecurity is often siloed as an IT problem, but marketers must understand that cyber risk is an enterprise level problem and that a change in mentality has to start at the very top. In the new world of GDPR, marketers must also understand how cyber-risk can relate to protecting their own organizations as well as their consumers’ data.

2) Positive v Negative: In this space, it’s very easy to go negative by focusing on the fear of what could happen if you don’t protect yourself, your business or even the infrastructure of your country. The news headlines do a pretty good job of highlighting the dangers, so it should be the role of the marketer to focus more on the opportunities instead. UK companies are leading the way on innovation in this space, so harnessing these stories can be a much more powerful way of grabbing attention. Opportunity sells.

3) Engagement: Creating a brand or message that can really engage and motivate you into action, is something that we’ve been very focused on. Creating vibrant and exciting campaigns that attract attention is not that hard a task when you are marketing some incredible technology and leading innovations.

4) Keep it Simple: Some of the technology in this space is by definition pretty complicated, as are many of the solutions. Ensuring the message is simple and easy to understand is therefore critical in driving engagement.

Over the next few years, there will of course be more attacks and, as the Guardian recently highlighted, it’s a question of when not if the UK will take a big hit. Marketers and brand managers will find it very easy to lean on these scare stories to sell products and services. But if you really want to create messaging or campaigns that cut through the noise and highlight the importance of these issues, you have to strike a strong balance between opportunity and innovation versus fear and function.